October has been a busy month for Pinball Heaven, kicking off with our display at the north’s biggest video gaming event: PLAY Expo at Manchester’s EventCity. The award-nominated show, which is now in its fifth year running, played host to hundreds of major exhibitors showcasing everything from virtual reality and next-gen gaming to indie developers and arcade games. EventCity was transformed not only into a fantastic meeting place for gamers, but also into a serious battleground complete with competitions, tournaments and even the chance to beat the developers at their own games!
Phil Palmer from Pinball Heaven Ltd has been a pinball fan since he was little but he is one of the lucky few who have been able to turn their passion into a livelihood. With over 25 years’ experience in pinball machine restoration and sales, Phil is already a well known and highly respected figure within the UK pinball community but we wanted to find out a little bit more about what makes him tick.
Phil bought his first pinball machine at the age of 14 and rapidly realised that he loves fixing and restoring pinball machines as much as he likes playing them. The process of taking apart his own machines led Phil to realise that there were a few things he didn’t know about electronics so he started a college course to rectify that. In true entrepreneurial style, however, he simply learned what he needed to know before leaving to concentrate on the already growing business.
“I already knew that fixing and restoring pinball machines was what I wanted to do for a living so with the business taking off rapidly, I made a decision to leave college and concentrate on building Pinball Heaven and, luckily, I haven’t looked back since.”
A big part of the Pinball Heaven Ltd business is restoring pinball machines so we asked Phil to provide a little more detail about this service.
“Our reputation for excellent restoration jobs goes before us and I think that is partly down to the passion I have instilled in the team. We are a small company which has played an important role especially in the restoration process. We don’t, for example, have a quick 20 point checklist that is simply an exercise in going through the motions. We take time on each restoration project checking everything from the top to the bottom. When a restored pinball machine leaves the Pinball Heaven premises we are confident that it is in an “as new” condition.
My favourite restoration to date is Funhouse, partly because it is one of the first machines I played in the arcade just as I was getting into pinball. Dating from 1991, many of the Funhouse machines are quite worn out by now and I find restoring this classic machine really satisfying.”
Whilst Pinball Heaven Ltd was primarily started as a pinball restoration business, Phil’s ever growing customer base began to ask if he could supply the small parts needed to make minor repairs themselves. The website now boasts over 2000 small parts that customers can order online and, if you are looking for a part that isn’t on the website, customers can simply contact Phil who will help source the necessary item.
Pinball Heaven supply and restore pinball machines the length and breadth of the UK and, of course, we asked about celebrity clients however, Phil’s reputation for discretion precluded him from spilling the beans except to say that he has seen some fabulous games’ rooms over the past 25 years.
Speaking of games’ rooms, we asked if Phil has one of his own?
“With so many pinball machines going through the business, it would be easy to have the house full all the time, never mind just a room so what I tend to do is take them home on a rotation basis. Obviously, this does mean I am lucky enough to play different pinball machines on a regular basis but it also means that I increase my knowledge and understanding of each game.
It’s paramount to me as an individual, and also a crucial part of my business, that my customers know I have a deep knowledge of the pinball world; that gives them confidence when, for example, I am asked to restore a machine or even if someone just wants to ask a question.
I do have a favourite pinball machine though and that is The Shadow. It happens to be the first game I ever bought brand new and it’s a very strategic machine which is what I enjoy.”
Finally, what does the future hold for Pinball Heaven Ltd?
“The parts’ side of the business is very busy so I am continuing to expand that. This area is ever-changing as new machines are brought out and new manufacturers come to the market place. I am also excited to announce that, for the first time, we are operating pinball machines on location, in cafes for example, across the country. This ties in with my passion for pinball as it’s crucial for the survival of the game that new people are introduced to it all the time.
We are also distributors for most new pinball companies and products in the UK and will be continuing to build relationships with both the manufacturers and our customers.”